Saturday, 21 March 2015

Bullet Gal - An interview with Andrez Bergen

The 'Bullet Gal' series (via Australian indie imprint IF? COMMIX) has been a raging critical success over the past few months.

Set in the city of Heropa sometime in the 1940s (or not), it follows the path of teenage vigilante Mitzi, a.k.a. fledgling cape Bullet Gal, as she comes to grips with a metropolis that teeters on the edge of love, lust, betrayal and a wad of masked superheroes with hidden agendas aplenty.

All these moments skillfully applied by expat Australian writer and artist Andrez Bergen, who's previously published 4 novels and worked with Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell), as well as on the comic books TALES TO ADMONISH, TOBACCO-STAINED MOUNTAIN GOAT, and TRISTA & HOLT.

The comic takes you on the twist and turns of the great Pulp novels and old comics of yore and the art pulls you straight in, using the artwork and pictures in new and unique ways.

It was a genuine pleasure turning the page (or scrolling the mouse wheel due to reading the digital version) to see not only what the story brought next, but the art as well. Stand out moments for me were the use of the covers that related to what was going on in the comics, the scene in the cemetery with its use of silhouettes and the superb use of pictures of celebrities and stars, especially Hugh Laurie with an eyepatch :)

So me and Andrez had a little Q&A about the comic, his love of Noir style comics and which Australian animal is more delicious.

Hi Andrez, how's it going?

All great, Brad, if a wee bit busy here in Tokyo! But busy is good.

Who are your favourite comic book characters? 

I think since forever I've worshipped at the altar of the Thing, Nick Fury, Bucky Barnes and Captain America, but I also have a thing for Velvet Templeton, Miss Fury, the Spirit, Wolverine, Beast, Angel, V from "V for Vendetta", Rorschach, and over at DC the Flash (when he was Barry Allen), Enemy Ace, Catwoman and Batman.

And artists?

Old-school? Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, Jim Steranko, Steve Ditko, Joe Kubert, Tarpé Mills, Barry (Windsor) Smith, Terry Gilliam and Kazuo Imezu.

Recent(ish)? Steve Epting, Sean Phillips, David Aja, Michael Lark, Fiona Staples, Frank Miller, David Lloyd, Ben Templesmith, Katsuhiro Otomo, Matt Kyme, Chris Samnee, Mike Deodata, Walter Geovani, Francesco Francavilla, Adam Rose and Gareth Colliton.

I think my all-time hero is still Marcel Duchamp.

What about writers?

Easy. Comics-wise Ed Brubaker, Will Eisner and Matt Fraction. I like the older work of Alan Moore and Frank Miller, and Jeph Loeb's work on Batman. Eric Stephenson, Gail Simone, Brian K. Vaughan, Tarpé Mills, Kurt Busiek, Paul Bedford. Otherwise novelists like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Philip K. Dick, and Umberto Eco.

What's on your pull list right now?

I'm always perusing old comics from the 1940s-'60s, but also more recent classic stuff. Contemporary titles I'm right into are Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting's "Velvet" alongside Brubaker and Sean Phillips' "The Fade Out". I also love Elizabeth Breitweiser's colour work in both. The things Matt Fraction and Christian Ward are doing with "ODY-C" are remarkable, but I still pine for Fraction and David Aja's "Hawkeye".

Now onto the comic...

What were some influences to you story-wise, apart from the obvious Ant-Man and heroes in general? 

Heroes wise, definitely Captain America—when, a couple of years ago, I wrote my novel "Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?", one character (Major Patriot) was based around the golden age Cap of the 1940s when Joe Simon and Jack Kirby defined him, while Southern Cross was heavily influenced by the 1960s Cap of Kirby and Stan Lee. Major Patriot, of course, is a key player in "Bullet Gal". 

Otherwise, the character of Mitzi/Bullet Gal would owe equal amounts to Catwoman, Tarpé Mills' Miss Fury, and Fawcett's Bulletgirl character of the '40s—while Brigit owes way too much to Will Eisner's femmes fatale from "The Spirit".

But beyond the capes and hoods?

Hardboiled pulp novels from the 1930s-'50s by people like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Robert E. Howard—with a smidgeon of Philip K. Dick.
All the film noir you've ever seen, and most of the sci-fi from "Things to Come" to "Blade Runner".

How long did it take to source the pictures used in it and did you have an idea of specific ones you wanted to use? 

It took bloody ages, though luckily I used a lot of my own stuff I had "on file"—I do use this term loosely, since my filing system is a mess! Otherwise I had to bounce about doing a lot of research and guess-work, along with some luck stumbling across exactly the right components.

I have to admit I was pulled out of the story a little bit when the image of Big Boss showed up but soon got back into it. 

Ha Ha Ha—you noticed! You're the first person who's picked up on that and let me know; I've been waiting.

What was your favourite character or celebrity that you threw in there? 

All of them? Seriously, I pay homage to actors/icons/films/products that I tend to worship. Hence the fact that Lee's car-of-choice 4 years later in the novel "Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?" is a Jaguar E-Type, same as Steve McQueen's. I guess in "Bullet Gal" Brigit was the most fun, bouncing out of Brigitte Bardot like that.

I loved seeing the use of covers actually relating to goings on in the comic which I felt has waned a lot in the two big companies.

Cheers, Brad. Yeah, actually, now you mention it—you're right. I hadn't really thought about the fact that a lot of recent covers are nothing like the story inside! I guess, being brought up with silver and bronze age stuff, the cover did reference the story quite heavily (sometimes with unnecessary reveals!), so that was always going to be the case.

My favourite cover was #3.

Which was your favourite cover to use? 

This is a toughie. I think my faves are for #4 and #11 if only because they're Mitzi looking somewhat glam, but other covers (like #6, for instance) work better on an artistic level, I guess.

So this was a prequel to your book "Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?". Are you going to be writing any more stories set in this universe? 

Ha Ha Ha—more than likely! All my books and comics inter-relate, often unintentionally to begin with, but I start seeing threads and pursue these. I do dig tinkering with the city of Heropa and the cast of characters, particularly Mitzi/Bullet Gal. We're also mulling over the idea of adapting "Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?" to comic book form.

What can we expect next from you? 

I'm currently woking on "Trista & Holt"—a comic book revision of the old Tristan and Isolde legend, but with roles reversed and set in the 1970s. Noir again, but very disco/Godfather-esque.

Okay now onto the quick fire round...

Marvel or DC? 

Marvel. But Image is doing wonderful things.

Mario or Sonic?

Mario. Though I still prefer Crash Bandicoot.

Chocolate or vanilla? 

Chocolate most of the time—but I am growing to love vanilla.

Neighbours or Home & Away?

Neither? Well, I guess I'd go with Neighbours since it's shot in my hometown (Melbourne), but... yikes.

Kangaroos or Koalas? 


Cooler, more enigmatic—and delicious.

Captain America or Iron Man? 

Captain America. Long history together.

And finally, if you could write a story featuring any comic book character, and you have the chance to either write in their own universe or do a re-imagining - who would it be, and why? 

Oh, good question! I guess I'd love to tinker with old faves like Fantastic Four, Captain America, Bucky Barnes or Nick Fury, simply because I grew up with, love, and see a potential I could inject into the mythos of these characters. 

Thanks for your time Andrez!

You can buy the Bullet Gal trade HERE and HERE 

or check out the individual covers and order the issues separately HERE

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